We often hear of them and often engage in trying to understand them, but oftentimes, philosophical dilemmas can just be extremely hard to comprehend. Whether it’s something like the trolley problems or something a bit more complicated, there’s a couple of ways you can make sure you can grasp the main meaning behind the dilemma.
Understand the outcomes
Sometimes, looking at the outcomes can help you understand what the possibilities are and what you could possibly do. Ethical dilemmas are dilemmas because there’s multiple outcomes that different philosophies dictate are the “right” or “wrong” one, so by understanding what the outcomes could possibly be, you are setting yourself up to understand what the goal of the question is.
The way most ethical dilemmas are set up, the outcomes are what are going to dictate what the entire idea of the question is. This is to test you, and test what your moral viewpoint is, so if you want to understand an ethical dilemma, oftentimes, the only way to start is by looking at the outcomes and deciding what the pros and cons of each of these are.
Reread the problem
If you’re having difficulty, you should reread or ask to rehear what the text of the problem is. Try to get clarifications on the parts that you’re most confused about so that you can really understand what you need to get out of the problem in itself.
Going over the problem multiple times will help you catch more of the problem and make connections you hadn’t made before. The problem is where the dilemma is going to be, so to understand the problem, you might have to reread a couple of times to comprehend what’s truly going on.
What might help is either marking up the problem if you can or writing down the main parts of the problem on the second or third time you’re going through the question in particular. For some people, this can help you visualize each individual aspect of the problem and how these aspects interact with one another.
Look into the philosophies
Most ethical dilemmas are usually directly related to some specific philosophies, whether they be utilitarianism or deontology like trolley problems are or if they’re on the heavier side.
If you don’t understand the dilemma in question, it can be very helpful to look into the philosophies in themselves, as that is going to help you actually see what the question wants from you.
If you need help understanding some of these philosophies, this post might help. Understanding what these philosophies even are in the first place can often be a prerequisite into what the dilemma is asking, especially if they deal with some heavier philosophies.
Try to make some connections between the different aspects of each question and the philosophies. Make connections between what is similar and what is different in each problem and try to understand what values are held at heart in each situation.
You could also make connections to other ethical dilemmas you’ve already engaged in or other philosophies you’ve looked into and philosophies you agree with. Make connections between what you value with what you see. Doing all of these are going to end up helping you understand similarities and differences and understand what is even going on.
Many moral theories also overlap, so you might also want to make some connections between moral theories you’re already familiar with and theories that these dilemmas are looking into. Many philosophers also love building off of one another, so understanding these different points of view might be impossible without drawing connections and making all of this clear to yourself.
Ask for help
Sometimes, just asking people you know for help on the problem and talking them through what you do understand can help you get the basis of the problem.
There’s plenty of ethical dilemmas out there, and if there’s any in particular that you would like our help with, don’t be afraid to ask, as we’d be more than happy to help!
Don’t be afraid
A lot of people are afraid of even looking into ethical dilemmas, but don’t be scared! They’re often less complicated than you think they are, especially once you start to peel back the layers and understand each individual aspect.
Even if you don’t understand it right away, just keep picking away and using some of these tips to help yourself get to a point where the dilemma actually makes sense. I promise, that will happen eventually, if you keep on trying.
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